banner archives

 

Fever Tree

The fever tree (Acacia xanthophloea) is one of the easiest thorn trees to identify. A distinctive identifying characteristic is the green to yellow bark. It tends to be a greener yellow in its early years, turning more yellow as it ages.

The bark appears smooth, but at close inspection, can be found to be quite flaky. These flaky patches also increase as the tree ages. There is a powdery feel to the bark. In recent times taxonomists have debated the authenticity of the genus Acacia and what trees are considered true acacias or not. My understanding is that there is stiff competition between Australasia and Africa being awarded the genus Acacia. Whilst this debate continues you may find the fever tree referred to as Vachellia xanthophloea in some reference books.

Fever trees are large trees, growing to heights of up to 25 metres. They are indigenous to southern and eastern Africa, their preferred habitat is warm and humid conditions, with access to plenty water. Its common name originated with early inhabitants corresponding malaria cases with the presence of fever trees, perhaps because mosquitoes who are the carriers of malaria also enjoy moist and swampy environments.

It is not uncommon to find fever trees growing outside of their natural distribution, as they are fast growing and useful ornamental trees, but be warned, as attractive as they are, they shed their leaves in the winter which can be a messy affair. This is certainly the case for the man planted specimens found on Ingwelala (they don’t occur naturally on Ingwelala). The typically yellow type flowers associated with most acacias are born in spring and early summer. Pods succeed the flowers through mid to late summer. Pollination is mostly butterfly and insect aided.

It is not uncommon to find fever trees growing outside of their natural distribution, as they are fast growing and useful ornamental trees, but be warned, as attractive as they are, they shed their leaves in the winter which can be a messy affair. This is certainly the case for the man planted specimens found on Ingwelala (they don’t occur naturally on Ingwelala).

The typically yellow type flowers associated with most acacias are born in spring and early summer. Pods succeed the flowers through mid to late summer. Pollination is mostly butterfly and insect aided.

The leaves are twice-compound with very fine leaflets. The thorns are straight and grow in pairs. In younger specimens the thorns are prolific.

Several bird species utilize fever trees for nesting. An example of this at Ingwelala is the Red billed buffalo-weaver (Bubalornis niger) which occasionally nest in the large fever tree outside the admin centre.

Wildlife that make good use of various offerings from the tree for dietary purposes are elephants, giraffes, baboons and vervet monkeys.

More Interesting Facts:

  • The wood can be worked for general timber, but requires curing to prevent certain cracking.
  • Roots are nitrogen fixing, a positive spin off forneighbouringplants in its vicinity.
  • Traditional medicinal uses include treatment of fevers.
  • It propagates readily, and is moderately frost resistant.
  • The leaves close at night and during excessive ambient temperatures.
  • The Greek word Acacia means thorn or spike.

 

Words and pictures by John Llewellyn. Facts researched off the Internet.